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Perched elegantly on Île de la Cité, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is as arresting as it is imposing. One look at the spellbinding architectural details, both inside and out, and you'll understand why it took nearly a century to complete, beginning 1160. Two monumental towers rise from it's western facade, marking the most intricately adorned portion of the cathedral. As a bonus, visitors can climb the 380 odd steps leading to the top of the towers for arguable the best views of the Parisian cityscape. Highlight of the cathedral's interiors are most certainly, the beautifully vivid rose windows in stained glass. History enthusiasts can also check out the archaeological crypt that exhibits interesting relics found in Paris. Considered to be a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is deservedly one of the most visited of Paris' enchanting sights.
The Louvre Museum houses one of the largest collections of artworks and antiquities in the world. The museum is located inside the Louvre Palace, which was built in the 12th Century as a fortress by Philip II. After Louis XIV, he decided to move his court to Versailles, the palace was occupied by a variety of institutions related to the arts. The museum was first opened under the National Assembly in 1793. The establishment is divided into sections, including drawing, painting and sculpture, and houses antiquities from Egypt, Rome, Greece, and several other cultures. Visitors to the museum can explore its many wings and see some of the most famous works like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Liberty Leading the People.
Millions of visitors come to see Musée d'Orsay's mammoth collection of French art every year. The building itself, called the Gare d'Orsay, was built as a railway station in 1900, is a striking Beaux-Arts edifice. At 138 meters long (453 feet) and 32 meters tall (105 feet), the opulent principal gallery of the ground floor is a reminder of the building's history. Among the masterpieces in this gallery are the Burial at Ornans by Gustave Courbet and the Gleaners by Jean-François Millet. Fans of impressionism should head directly up to the fifth floor, where works by the greatest masters of this genre can be found.
Take a trip to the beautiful gardens of Tuileries, where the Orangerie Museum is located. The museum stocks a host of famous and fabulous artists such as Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Henri Rousseau. All the artwork in the museum was handed over by Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume, two art fanatics who have ensured that all these works are exhibited together. There is a surprise in the basement: the Oval Room, which houses some of Monet's Water-Lily paintings on permanent display. Another surprise awaiting you is the La Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, which is a twin tower of the Orangerie.
Hidden beneath "The City of Light" is a dark underworld, the final resting place of more than six million Parisians. The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries formed of a network of tunnels, caves, and quarries filled with mortal remains, where the former citizens of Paris now form a part of its foundation. As Paris went on its way to becoming an important hub, thousands flocked to the city. This spurred justified concerns about the limited cemetery space, leading to the creation of the catacombs in 1810 at the site of the old Montrouge stone quarries. Although in use as an ossuary as early as the 1780s, it was not until this time that the catacombs were organized. The bones were arranged as per the cemeteries they were taken from, creating a subterranean skeletal world, where the last of the lot were brought down in 1860. During World War II, this network of galleries was used as a hideaway for the Résistance movement; its vastness and the discretion of its entrances were great assets indeed. These ossuaries, illustrated by texts, create a chilling atmosphere and describe some of the defining events in the history of Paris, giving visitors substance for meditation. It is also occasionally used as a macabre venue for concerts, parties and other events.
Underneath the glaze of the Parisian sky, the Eiffel Tower captures the dazzling spirit of its French capital. A magnificent wrought iron lattice tower that was originally built as an entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, the tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel after his inspiration was fueled by the pyramidal form of Egypt's historic landmarks. This comparison was met with ardent disapproval from several eminent Frenchmen before the tower came to be the celebrated global icon that it is known as today. At a stunning height of 324 meters (1,063 feet), the Eiffel Tower dominates the skyline as the city's tallest, and the country's second-tallest freestanding structure. Its majestic form sports three shades – darkest at the lowest level and colored in a light contrast as the tower ambles up to the top – an illusory mechanism adopted so as to complement its surroundings. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most winning sights in all of France, and even after more than a century, people continue to extol this monumental symbol of architectural beauty.
Famous for housing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Arc de Triomphe is a site of memories, current events, and celebrations. Construction of the Arc de Triomphe began in 1806 and was completed thirty years later. Standing in a direct line between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense, the monument links the past with the present and offers amazing views of the city from atop the arch. Many of France's famous leaders, dictators, writers, and artists have passed under its arch on the way to their final resting place, including Napoleon and Victor Hugo. A closer look at the arc reveals six evocative reliefs carved into its historic facade, portraying key highlights and events that transpired during the French Revolution and Napoleon's reign.
Parc de la Villette is spread over three kilometers (one-and-a-half miles), is first and foremost a park where both children and parents can play and relax. With its wooded glens, a canal winding through the lawns, staircases climbing up the hillsides to lovely views, and flat lots for roller blading, this place is very popular on sunny Sundays. Children of all ages are invited to unleash their imaginations here: dragon gardens, astounding acrobatics, gentle dunes, and rolling fog set the stage. Linger for awhile in the Bamboo Garden to hear the wind blowing through these enormous grasses and imagine you are surrounded by jungle!
Parc de la Villette is the setting for this huge science museum best known for its Géode dome and impressive 180-degree cinema. Natural and scientific phenomena are explained with the help of exhibitions in an area specially designed with kids in mind. Children aged three and over can visit a real submarine, the Argonaute, and find out how it works; temporary exhibitions are organized in Espace Explora.